Saturday, September 27, 2008

This post sums up my life in New York

I finally went to Balthazar, a kind of stuck up French place in Soho which I have never been able to get into. I was in the neighbourhood and I had to run the clock down from 6 to 7, so I went in and had a $13 glass of Sauvignon Blanc at the bar (I asked for Pinot Grigio but was told they only have "French grapes").

Balthazar is also a bakery, and it supplies restaurants and grocery stores throughout the city. Including one on the Upper West Side whose dumpster my friends and I dived later on that very same night. I rescued a fat pumpernickel and took it home to the freezer. Apparently it's a $9 loaf of bread.

Aaaaaand here is the SMS I got from friend (pictured) an hour later:

"I just walked by people having sex in the street. Almost dropped my bread."

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's the neighbourhood like?

In the Bronx, where I teach.

I get on the 2 train at Wall Street, and take it straight up the line from the financial shit show to the real economy. Nothing but goods (used cars and affordable groceries), services (light manufacturing and hair relaxing) and dinero efectivo.

Even the subway changes from an anonymous transportation-function to a place of shift work and maintenance checklists.

I have consumed room-temperature fermented horse milk. But cow foot. No, this is too controversial.

I fantasize about working at this printing press, which is "open but we keep the door locked. Please knock."

Security is less of a concern at the pawn shop, where you obviously could easily punch a hole through their wall and take all their gold.

Where 2 party: Clover Club

When K-star was here (that was great), we hemmed and hawed about what neighbourhood to hang out in so as to maximize her New York time (my favourite establishment being the brasserie because I am Caucasian), and then decided that the answer actually lies not in the overpriced West Village / Soho / Lower East Side, but in Brooklyn, namely Cobble Hill. Cobble Hill is just over the Brooklyn Bridge and turn right, and is full of people our age ("29"). Especially smith street.

And the best place on Smith street is this spot that is capitalizing on the current "distology" trend (treating booze like food, and decoding now obscure pre-prohibition recipes: did you know there used to be hundreds of kinds of bitters on the market and now there are only four?).

Katherine stole me a menu:

"Cobblers and Highballs
Cobblers are said to have gotten their name, more than a century ago, from the little 'cobbles,' or pebbles, of ice they were made with. At one point, they were probably the most popular family of drinks going, with the Sherry Cobbler being the star. Why? Simple. Not only were they delicious, but they introduced a fun new invention of the time, the straw. They usually consist of wine or liquor shaken up with sugar and (usually) a scant amount of citrus and poured (usually again) over finely-cracked ice. Cobblers are always beautifully garnished with fruits in season."

There are also Juleps and Smashes, Collins and Fizzes, Bucks and Mules, Swizzles, Royales, Cocktails, and Punch. My fave is the Hoffman House Fizz: Gin, Lemon, Maraschino Liqueur, Cream.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I did, in the end, turn in that paper. And I just got it back. It turns out it was an "excellent analyse du rapport mélancholie-sublimation... Je salue l'originalité de votre démarche." So says Kristeva. She's famous, you know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cosi Fan Tutti

Katherine: lucky me.
in truth, I do like wedding(s) (receptions) quite a bit.
can't imagine being the center of attention though.
all that hullaballoo.
me: i feel the exact same way, on both counts
Katherine: that myth about the wedding day being the occasion that girls dream about their whole lives really chaps my hide.
its a story propagated by lame rom-coms and family tv.
me: yeah, i have NEVER thought about it
that's not true:
i have actually tried to think about it
given the way in which that fantasy is described as so incredibly enjoyable for women
and couldn't do it
like, "hmm.. okay, what is there? flowers? uh, roses maybe. or violets. or tulips, actually. or daisies. wait, are some of those wrong? like, out of style or something?"
or... dress: okay, let's see...
not.. ugly..
i guess it will depend on the style at the time
and i like simple things
wedding band, that I can do:
a simple gold ring.
am i done?
Katherine: nope -
cake, reception, wedding party,
decorations, centre pieces,
me: oh right
Katherine: dancing? no dancing?
overall colour scheme.
buffet or sit down meal?
open bar? twonie bar?
where will you register?
me: what?
Katherine: will you go on a honey moon?
me: oh, yeah - gifts!
Katherine: who is planning your stagette?
what about your wedding lingerie?
me: actually, if i end up marrying todd, i will totally let him do all this shit, because he cares far more about style, and he is good at it
Katherine: sounds good.
Katherine: I have been to many weddings.
(as have you_
me: also, what colour underwear do you wear?
Katherine: it is far too much to worry about.
me: and how drunk do you get?
Katherine: borrowed, blue underwear
and you aren't allowed to eat cause you've dropped 10% of your body weight just to fit in the dress
me: and should you take your anxiety shit before or after you put the dress on?
Katherine: yes
me: and what colour will the ceiling be?
Katherine: cause apparently you can't go to the bathroom without the help of your brides mades
afternoon or evening?
how much time in between?
me: and should you invite an odd or even number of people?
Katherine: when will you do your photographs?
me: lol
you are good at this
Katherine: what should the giflts be for the wedding party?
me: you should be a wedding planner
gifts for the goddam wedding party?
Katherine: I would do it just to wear the head set
flasks for the men
gift certificates to a spa for women
me: that's so Scarborough [Ontario]
Katherine: something like that.
me: ew
Katherine: something engraved is usually customary
like a beer stein or something
me: acrylic tips and hair extensions for everyone!
Katherine: so when the marriage fails, people can hide those favours at the back of the cupboard when the former bride/groom come over
me: ha
whereas if the marriage succeeds, they will drink from their engraved stein every day
and silently toast your lvoe
Katherine: how do satisfy your mother's attempts to fulfill her own unmet expectations of her wedding?
me: i don't think my mother gives a rats ass
but let me tell you this:
Katherine: while simultaneously pleasing the mother inlaw regarding her propensity for orange napkins?
me: if i have to do all this
i want a big ass budget
Katherine: A big budget.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An email exchange between me and my mother


I will respond to your emails later, but in the meantime I just had to drop you a quick note to say: there is a campaign ad running right now here starring.....T Boone Pitkins.

Now, I heard about this ad before I actually saw it. And when I did (hear about it), I embarrassed myself. Because the only thing I had heard about T Boone Pitkins up to that point had been a crack you made one time - we were in a restaurant, and someone across the room reminded you of him ("Look at T Boone Pitkins over there") and I said, "Who's T Boone Pitkins?" and you gave me a brief sketch of a caricature of a crazy, gun-toting "Yee haw!" oil tycoon, and I concluded that T Boone Pitkins was a fictional character.

So. When I heard about this campaign ad with T Boone Pitkins, I couldn't figure out what the hell the person was talking about - was it a cartoon? An actor? Why would McCain get a ridiculous caricature to endorse his campaign?

Hence, foot in mouth. How's that for a caboose pushing a train?

Ed. note: When my mom was small, she was once told in jest by her dad that cabooses push trains. She believed this well into adulthood, until one day she and my father were driving through Saskatchewan and she pointed out a really long train and mused that it must have one hell of a caboose. And my father laughed and laughed (and married her anyway), and my mother vowed to never mislead her children in this way. Now, let us read her response...

I've been meaning to mention those ads in an email for some time now.

It's when we were on the cruise. There was this couple - I'd say he was early 60's and I bet it was his second/trophy wife cuz she was younger and very attractive although those women make looking young and attractive a full time job so coulda been his first. And I pointed them out and said that he was the T. Boone Pickens of the cruise and you laughed and laughed and it was apparent you hadn't heard of him before so I had to explain who TBP was. I certainly didn't intend to have you think he was a caricature but that sort of character sort of is anyway. No he's real and I've read some pretty favourable reviews about his little campaign and how he's kept a low profile of late and apparently put the possum gun down has been thinking purdy hard about some things and has come up up with some ideas that are credible to the American public.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Moving pictures

In my neighbourhood, Wall Street news is local news...

But the camera crews outside of the court building are just filming Law & Order.

Friday, September 12, 2008

First day of school

I am teaching at a school just north of the Bronx, 9 am on Friday mornings. This means that I get all the conveniences of a Bronx feel (taquerias, cheap bodegas, el) without the conveniences of the MTA transit system, which abandons me at the city's northern edge. But I am industrious, and the night before my first class I went online to Westchester County Transit's website to figure out that I needed either the 40 or the 41 bus to take me from the end of the subway line to the college.

So, Friday morning, at the end of my 81 minute train ride - which, by the way, was fascinating and I LOVE the Bronx nomenclature (Gun Hill Road; Eastchester/Dyre) - I descend to street level, find the bus stop and check the schedule. The last 40/41 passed a few minutes ago, at 8:00, and the next is due at... 5:00 pm? Que?

That's alright, I'll walk; I pop into a deli to get directions. There is a man on the threshold eating an egg sandwich, but inside there is no one behind the counter. I find the cook in the back, and ask him how to get to [street] and [cross-street]. He says, "Well that's pretty far."
"I know but I can't figure out the bus."
"Well hey, this guy will take you," gesturing to egg sandwich man. "He's a cab."
Me, turning to egg sandwich man: "Um, you're a cab?"
Egg man: "Yeah, I'll take you there."
Cook: "Don't worry, miss. I know this guy. He's a good guy."
Me: "Sure... okay... thank you."

We go outside to his minivan, I take a quick look in the back to check for the implements of axe murdererousness and ask him how much: 6 bucks. I hope in [I meant to write "hop" but I am leaving it like that], we listen to pirate reggae radio, he drives straight to [street] and reads the numbers on the buildings until we find the one I want.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Winter's Tale

I recently read Winter's Tale, which anyone living in New York, and in or out of love, should -

Every city has its gates, which need not be of stone. Nor need soldiers be upon them or watchers before them. At first, when cities were jewels in a dark and mysterious world, they tended to be round and they had protective walls. To enter, one had to pass through gates, the reward for which was shelter from the overwhelming forests and seas, the merciless and taxing expanse of greens, whites, and blues - wild and free - that stopped at the city walls.

In time the ramparts became higher and the gates more massive, until they simply disappeared and were replaced by barriers, subtler than stone, that girded every city like a crown and held in its spirit. Some claim that the barriers do not exist, and disparage them. Although they themselves can penetrate the new walls with no effort, their spirits (which, also, they claim do not exist) cannot, and are left like orphans around the periphery.

To enter a city intact it is necessary to pass through one of the new gates. They are far more difficult to find than their solid predecessors, for they are tests, mechanisms, devices, and implementations of justice. There once was a map, now long gone, one of the ancient charts upon which colorful animals sleep or rage. Those who saw it said that in its illuminations were figures and symbols of the gates. The east gate was that of acceptance of responsibility, the south gate that of the desire to explore, the west gate that of devotion to beauty, and the north gate that of selfless love. But they were not believed. It was said that a city with entryways like these could not exist, because it would be too wonderful. Those who decide such things decided that whoever had seen the map had only imagined it, and the entire matter was forgotten, treated as if it were a dream, and ignored. This, of course, freed it to live forever.

Photo Source

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fashion Week

Get this: I went to a real fashion show. Like, the giant tent in Bryant Park set up for Fashion Week, where all the spring collections are shown and then reported on around the world. The full on catwalk.

I shall break it down for you.

There was a crowd of gawkers, tourists, police outside when I arrived. I found my friends, and we tried to go inside (we were on the list!). We were told there was no list. Our designer friend had to come outside and get us and bring us past the red ropes. Inside, there was your basic fashion tailgate party going on: swag booths and ladies handing out evian and chocolate biscuits and a mercedes in the corner and a free cocktail bar. There was also a line forming to get past the lobby and into the actual fashion show area, but it never actually moved forward, only thinned, as people were rescued out of it by their fashion insiders, as we eventually were.

They say the show starts at seven, but it really starts 45 minutes later, giving people time to mingle and take their seats (and anticipate!), and every once in a while, a flurry of paparazzi flash bulbs will go off when one famous person sashays over and greets another. When the show starts, the room goes dark, the catwalk erupts with white light, and techno music comes blasting over the PA. The models, who really are breastlessly thin, walk leaning backwards at a 45 degree angle. You don't know this, dear reader, because you only ever see them from the front, but I can assure you, it was all we talked about afterwards.

And now, I would like to read to you from the list of models:
Zuzana G.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sit down

Alright, where do I begin. Friend invited me to a gallery opening, in which he was performing, as part of the sort of background scenery in the tableau vivant that the main artist was trying to enact, which was in fact a reenactment (down to empty beer bottles and a chess board you were allowed to play with) of an artist space that used to exist - or maybe still does - in New York, but was dedicated to Houston (the city in Texas, not the street in New York), and populated with Houston-originated artists. So this main artist, a performance artist, generally strives, in his art, to make you feel uncomfortable (I had to leave when he began to drink the salsa and smear mayo on his face [actually, not mayo, Miracle Whip]), but he doesn't just want you to be annoyed or horrified uncomfor- table --- he wants you to feel simultaneously empathetic (are you keeping up with the meta?) -- all of which was actually best achieved by a woman in attendance who was not meant to be performing at all, but couldn't help herself, because she was SO DRUNK she simply had to keep interjecting, commenting, taking over, making demands, drinking Jack Daniels, falling down, poetry slamming, breaking her teeth in a big bloody mess on the cement.